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Brief history of the Franciscan church and cloister of Lazarea, Romania
The Szármány hills rise on the backdrop of the village of Lazarea, vast properties that ever since had belonged to the huge landowning family, Lázár. In the 15th century a group of chapels had been erected on the west side of this mountain just above the palace in the style of the "sacred country" (Terra Sancta). The largest chapel structure was surrounded by four smaller ones, and the whole complex was contained within a strong stone wall. These chapels were the property of the family Lázár as well. In the year 1642 the owner, Lázár István engaged two Franciscan monks, the Patres Kolozsvári Bartolomeus and Esio Fulgentius with the care of these chapels. However the two monks died of the plague only two years later, after which all further care and administration was passed on to a hermit.
In the year 1665 Lázár István issued a donation deed, finally transferring the chapels and a large part of the surrounding estates to the Franciscan order, all in the hopes that the Franciscans would find permanent settlement in Lazarea. That same year father Taplocai Gürüg István began with the rebuilding and expansion of the chapels and the church. His successor, father Kájoni János (1670) commenced erecting a modest cloister out of wood. Father Vásárhelyi Budai Bernardinus then built a sacristy next to the church and a covered walkway on the church wall in the year 1675.
In 1690 the steeple and an extension on the east wing of the cloister was built by father Kálmándi Ferenc with materials donated by Boros Tamás. His successors, father Zsigrai Modestus and father Veres Dániel enhancement the cloister with the construction of the Southwest wing, and also refurbished the whole complex. In the year 1707, the imperial colonel, Akton set the palace of the Lázárs and the adjacent cloister in fire after ransacking it. This was done out of revenge to the Lázár family, who sympathized with the revolution of Rákóczy Ferenc II. In 1709 a second fire destroyed any the remaining building parts.
The rebuilding of the church and the cloister took place in the year 1752 under father Csergõ Krizogon. On May 22nd 1872 church and cloister again was burned to ashes along with the whole village of Lazarea. Finally, with support and help the family, Vákár from the city Gheorgheni, father Vencel Adorján erected a new church and cloister as seen in its present-day form. The North wing of the cloister was considerably damaged by earthquakes in 1908 and 1940.
The present day church is built in the "humble" baroque-style, known also as the so-called Franciscan "observant" baroque. The altars and the remaining church features were manufactured by a Franciscan master craftsman, Heinrich W. Essermann of Tyrol in the years 1759-1760. Valuable paintings include the altarpieces of the Saint Anne, Saint Maria, and Saint Clair, and a crucifix carved from oak.
Throughout the cloister´s history an approximate total of 800 Franciscan-monks have lived and worked.